QUESTIONING CHRISTIANITY'S MOST POPULAR DEFENCE OF MIRACLES BEING BELIEVABLE

Facts: even believers admit that a miracle report could be down to natural causes.

The difference between them and the unbelievers is that they say the natural explanations are very likely inapplicable.

A miracle is defined by them as an act of God but they would ignore say a lorry floating in mid-air.  They are inherently dishonest.

Surely a stunning coincidence that is definitely natural can be more remarkable than a man rising from the dead 2000 years ago?  It is an example of a functional not actual miracle.  Miracle religions manipulate your emotions.

Nobody really wants a world where nature can be altered too much like in Dr Strange Multiverse of Madness.  All put a limit on what miracles they want to be true.

Unbelievers are less ideological than believers in these matters.

THE ARGUMENT FOR MIRACLES FROM LEWIS

CS Lewis is a good place to go to understand what Christianity teaches.

For something marketed as, "Dear God you have clearly done this thing and I honour you by believing you have for it is an act of praise to say I trust your integrity", a miracle-happened claim is remarkably and shamelessly about human opinion.  It is not God you believe but those who assess if he has revealed or not, who assess what he is trying to say and who assess that it is a miracle act of God not a fluke of coincidence.

Christian defender of the faith, CS Lewis argued that if you think there is nothing but nature and rational causes then you will be highly sceptical of any claims that miracles have occurred. If you hold that the supernatural may be real then you are open to persuasion that miracles may in some cases have happened.  This is not true.  The supernatural could be real and still not do miracles.  It may not have done the miracles you want it to have done.

He argues that thinking that there is only nature, that is naturalism, suffers from “cardinal difficulties.” He does not mention that his own view is in the same boat.

Naturalism is presupposed by those who say that science shows miracles cannot ever happen and that miracles contradict nature.  Christians say that science is not about showing what can or cannot happen for that is about specifics.  They say science is not about that at all about about giving us general laws.  They say miracles don't conflict with nature any more than giving a gift of money conflicts with your right to own money.  Who says that nature working without miracles is general law?  You will only say it is if you assume miracles happen in the first place.  It is circular logic.  It is in fact not logic at all.

Christians deny the naturalist view that a miracle is only assumed because people have not found the scientific explanation.  Naturalists will remind you that not having one does not mean there is no natural explanation.

In fact if there is a supernatural power who says its activity is going to be detectible?  It could hide its work forcing us to say there must be a natural explanation though we cannot find one.

The supernatural does not weaken that.  It strengthens.

Lewis does not give us examples of things that people swear are miracles when the clear evidence says they are down to natural causes. He does not tell us that even if miracles happen, that his favourite miracle the resurrection of Jesus might still be false. What if the miracle was that nothing happened but that people thought it did?

Not all acts of God are considered to be miracles.  Religion gives an answer to prayer as a good example of something that is from God but is not a miracle.  God makes sure nature gives you what you ask rather than getting involved directly.  You find the loaf you pray for instead of God materialising it for you out of nothing.  Most people would see the response to prayer as not a response but an example of the remarkable power of coincidences.  Surely a huge coincidence is more amazing than a man coming back from the dead?  Who says that something has to be like a rabbit from a hat to be amazing and inspiring?

Everybody knows that a reported miracle may look believable because of one detail.  That detail may be down to coincidence.  Here is an example. 

The supernatural can use nature's power to make coincidences or it may intervene to cause the coincidence.  Thus a spirit with very little power can still make it seem a miracle has happened.  Remember what we said about how a resurrection report is the real miracle if it is credible so it still has nothing to do with showing the resurrection happened.  A miracle has NOTHING at all with showing God or Jesus were in any way real.

Lewis holds that saying it is all natural, leads to us being clockwork that may feel like it is not but actually is meaning that we cannot trust anything we think for it was by luck that we were programmed and there is no guarantee that this is in line with the way things really are. This suffers from how even if the supernatural is real we could still be clockwork.

Not all naturalists think it leads to this despairingly clockwork idea, this determinism. If you think free will is real you definitely have to agree it is a mystery so for that reason you don’t know enough about it to rule out that nature can allow for it. The clockwork idea does not tell us by itself if we are likely to be free or not. It only tells us about the cause and effect chain. 

But what if free will is not real? It does not matter for even a rock cannot change the fact that the cliff is there stopping it from moving.  Reality forces and this is not informing but has the same effect. You are educated by the fact that there are things bigger than you that are not about what you think or feel or anything else.  Does Lewis think his cat is clockwork even though it has no free will?  He does not.

Also, considering that Lewis says we are damaged by sin and free will when abused is based on errors and on the person not really being themselves we wonder what free will has to do with showing our brains work okay.  It says they can but often do not.  So that is no better than the strawman he has made from his clockwork image.

I would say that there is a difference between free will being thought of as a natural thing and free will being thought of as a supernatural power from a God.  A God might give you free will just as a natural thing and not make it about

By making out that you call us all machines with no real reasoning ability or moral values as Lewis does unless miracles are accepted as possible and even better, real, is pressuring people to identify suitable miracles to fit their ideology and declare them true.  That is self-defeating for it is not about truth but about practicality.  It offers a free pass to con artists.

APPENDIX

Lewis thinks

(1) If determinism were true, then every human's thoughts would be completely determined by antecedent events.
(2) If every human's thoughts were completely determined by antecedent events then no human would be able to make rational inferences.
(3) Therefore, if determinism were true, no human would be able to make rational inferences [from (1) & (2)]
(4) Humans are able to make rational inferences.
(5) Therefore, determinism is false [from (3) & (4)].
This argument is deductively valid, but its premise (2) is false or at least not established. It is unclear why Lewis believed it. Presumably that conditional is to be understood in terms of logical implication, but it is hard to see how both affirming the antecedent and denying the consequent involves a logical contradiction. There is no inconsistency in human reasoning being deterministic but rational. What is relevant is not whether human reasoning is caused, but whether it is reliable. Human thought-processes might be deterministic, indeterministic, reliable or unreliable. There is no obvious reason why human thinking being deterministic entails that it is unreliable.

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FROM INFIDELS.ORG Nicholas Tattersall "Miracles"

Lewis makes use of the objectionable principle that might be summarised, "If a person does not have an explanation for why some proposition is true, then he cannot reasonably believe that proposition to be true." Specifically, Lewis assumes that if a naturalist cannot give an explanation for why humans can reason, then that naturalist cannot reasonably believe that humans can reason. But Lewis' principle is obviously false, as can be demonstrated by examples. Consider the following; (i) grass is green; (ii) the electron charge is approximately 1.6*10-19 C; (iii) water expands when it freezes. I estimate that most people who believe (i)-(iii) know of no explanation for why those propositions are true rather than false. Does it follow that those people are unjustified in their beliefs? Of course not. A person who knows nothing about the scientific explanation for why grass is green can obviously have a justified belief that grass is green.

So to summarise my criticisms of Lewis' first argument;

(i) he erroneously supposes that naturalists are committed to determinism;

(ii) he offers defective arguments against determinism.

Lewis offers a second argument against naturalism. This argument makes use of his claim that if naturalism were true then there would be no objective values. But according to Lewis, we know that there are objective moral values for two reasons;

(i) there is widespread agreement that certain acts are morally wrong;

(ii) ethical debate is possible. Of naturalists' rejection of ethical objectivism, Lewis says,

But they must stick to it; and fortunately (although inconsistently) most real Naturalists do not. A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionise, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.

This argument is irrelevant to the naturalism/supernaturalism issue since naturalism does not entail the view that there are no objective values. It is a gross misunderstanding on Lewis' part that if a person denies that any supernatural entities exist then that person must deny that there are any objective values. Many naturalists can and do believe that there are objective moral rules.



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